Reviews of concerts, Winter/Spring 2006


Concert on 7 February 2006: Music Students from Frensham Heights School

The following review was submitted to the local press


It is always a pleasure to hear young people performing music. They bring a freshness of approach which their seniors can only match with difficulty. The lunchtime recital given at Farnham United Reformed Church on Tuesday 7th February featured nine students from Frensham Heights who clearly enjoyed performing.

Simon Jarvis (trumpet) opened the programme with a confident performance of Jeremiah Clarke's Prince of Denmark's March. He was followed by a much quieter piece played on the guitar by Cansin Rathge, who had stepped in at the last moment. The piece he played, "Icy Blue", was written by his teacher, Vincent Lindsey-Clark.

Mike Lee is a relative newcomer to the piano but his playing had all the assurance of a more experienced pianist. A dramatic reading of the opening Grave of the first movement of Beethoven's Sonata Pathétique was followed by a fluent Allegro di molto.

Bronwen Ramsdale, a Year 9 student, has a well-developed rich contralto voice, used to excellent effect in Mendelssohn's "O rest in the Lord" from Elijah.

At this stage Cansin Rathge came back with another guitarist, Kenny Tanner (who must have been under some difficulty, having recently broken his right wrist). They played another enjoyable piece by Vincent Lindsey-Clark, "Swing Swang Lane".

The Director of Music at Frensham Heights, Edwin Rolles, who accompanied throughout, said how fortunate the school is this year, as it has several real tenors. One of them, Joe Cook, sang "Where'er you walk" from Handel's opera Semele. It was good to hear him putting in some modest extra ornamentation in the da Capo part of this lovely song.

Naomi McLean is an accomplished 'cellist and she gave a polished performance of the Prelude from Suite no. 2 for solo 'cello by J. S. Bach.

Gisella Doulton (oboe) has just passed her Grade 8 at the age of 13. Her performance of the Siciliano and Allegro from Cimaroso's Oboe Concerto was musicianly, fluid and confident. Clearly Gisella is a name to look out for in the future.

The final item was given by a final year student, Duane Nasis, who performed Chopin's Nocturne in E flat (op. 9 no. 2). Duane seems to have a real feel for Chopin and his performance was self-assured: he recovered well from a minor slip in mid-performance.

John Mansfield

9 February 2006

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Concert on 7 March 2006: Ariadne Blyth, harpsichord

The following review was submitted to the local press


In a short lunchtime concert it is not usually possible to illustrate the progression of music from the baroque to the classical, but Ariadne Blyth managed to do so in her lunchtime concert at Farnham United Reformed Church on Tuesday 7th March.

Ariadne's attractive programme started with two pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, a gentle prelude in C and a more exciting short concerto in D.

Those pieces were followed by a three-movement sonata written by Bach' second son Carl Philipp Emanuel, which was richer and more expressive, especially in the second movement, marked "larghetto affetuoso".

The last movement of the C. P. E. Bach sonata was dramatic and fiery, and was echoed in a sonata in D by Joseph Haydn (which in fact took themes from C. P. E. Bach) and echoed the spirit of the age in which it was written, known as Sturm und Drang, which is as dramatic as it sounds.

The final piece was a little adagio by Mozart written for the Glass Harmonica, and played delicately in the top octave of the harpsichord. Peace was restored again.

Ariadne was playing a modern harpsichord made by R. Goble and Son in Oxford, which was a copy of a 1683 instrument made by the Flemish family, Ruckers of Antwerp. Her playing was a joy to listen to throughout.

John Mansfield

7 March 2006

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Concert on 11 April 2006: The Rolles Family

The following review was submitted to the local press

The final concert in the 2005/6 season of lunchtime concerts at Farnham United Reformed Church was given on Tuesday 11 April 2006 by the talented Rolles Family (Edwin Rolles, baritone and piano, Annie Rolles, oboe and piano and Samuel Rolles, viola). The concert consisted of English songs and baroque instrumental music.

At the very beginning Edwin Rolles announced that the concert was in a sense a memorial to Jan White, formerly the school nurse at Frensham Heights, who died on 28th March. A share of the proceeds from the concert is to go to the Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice in her memory.

The first piece was an oboe sonata in G minor by Telemann, which, after a rather solemn opening, is light and airy, and was played delightfully by Annie Rolles.

Edwin followed with two well-loved English songs, Stanford's A soft day and the even better-known Linden Lea, by Vaughan Williams.

It was now Samuel's turn, and he gave us another sonata in G minor, this time by Henry Eccles, and English contemporary of J. S. Bach. You could tell at once that this was a serious piece, its solemnity being given added richness by Samuel's dignified approach, and the extra rich tone of his viola. The second movement was even more so-beautiful, dreamy stuff.

With a change from G minor to G major, Annie played Sammartini's sonata for oboe: a serious andante was followed by a lively allegro. More Telemann followed: part of a concerto in G major for viola. Telemann was the first composer to write a concerto for that instrument. Samuel played the Largo, followed by the allegro movement.

Edwin sang two more English songs, the lovely Now sleeps the crimson petal, by Roger Quilter and the very popular Love's old sweet song, which (he said with some embarrassment) he had been singing since 1966!

The final item in the concert was given by all three players: an arrangement of Handel's sonata for violin, oboe and piano but with the oboe part played on the viola and the violin part played on the oboe-and well worth while playing.

John Mansfield

12 April 2006

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Concert on 8 April 2006: The Southern Philharmonia (conductor: Philip Singleton)

The following review appeared in the Farnham Herald on 28 April 2006 and is here is printed with their kind permission

Impressive new guitar work by local musician

THE first of three concerts organised to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart was met with enthusiastic applause at Farnham's United Reformed Church this month.

The Southern Philharmonia, founded for the event by young conductor Philip Singleton, produced a rich and compelling performance, combining an energy and vitality with a control and empathy that reflected the diversity of age within the orchestra.

The concert began with a recital of the Overture to Mozart's opera buffa, Don Giovanni. The opening Andante was full of drama, with David Morecroft, attentive and precise throughout the concert, demonstrating fine touch and control of the timpani. The orchestra came alive in the main Allegro section as the violins began to play out more boldly, interchanging themes with the consistently bright woodwind section.

Singleton demonstrated, from the moment he walked into the hall, a calm assurance.

The Overture was followed by the eagerly anticipated premiere of local musician Vincent Lindsey-Clark's Concerto Melodica for guitar-a rare occasion in which the composer was also performing as soloist.

He arrived on stage to an animated greeting from the audience before silencing them with an impressive display of virtuosic dexterity and feel. The delicious harmonised runs of the second movement's mesmerising cadenza and the intricate strumming techniques towards the end of the third provided stand-out moments of technical prowess. The concerto abounded with thematic development and combined an intriguing mixture of modern influences and styles. The first movement now and then evoked an Iberian quality, with a suggestion of Gallic jazz in the second. The pizzicato backing from the double bass in this section provided an excellent platform for the graceful melody of the guitar. Though the guitar was at times frustratingly quiet, for the most part the orchestra was very receptive and showed some skill in adapting to playing with a quiet solo instrument.

The concert closed with a well-judged performance of Mozart's Symphony no 39 in E flat. The soft opening Adagio section was delicately played; the timpani once again coming to the fore, before a sensitive transition through the sparse bridge section. The Allegro was played with suitable freedom and energy, Michelle Lewis confidently leading the violins' lively interplay with the winds.

The minuet and trio were performed with strength and candour. The unusual tint of the arpeggios in the clarinet's low register shone through effectively in counterpoint to the violins. with Anthony Wright giving a visually expressive performance full of passion and articulation.

The orchestra worked through the final movement with deftness, building a great deal of excitement into the development section of its sonata form. Singleton controlled an intelligently restrained finale, showing a good understanding of how the piece sits in the context of Mozart's final three symphonies.

The next Mozart concert at the United Reformed Church, featuring Symphony no 40, will be held on Saturday. July 1, at 7-45 pm.

Chris Webster

The photograph, taken by Fergus McEwan, shows (l. to r.) Philip Singleton, Vincent Lindsey-Clark and John Mansfield, and is printed by courtesy of the Farnham Herald. Click on it for a larger version.

Evening Concert on 20 May 2006: Organ recital by Geoffrey Morgan

The following review, by Barry Williams, is reproduced by kind permission of the Editor of Laudate

A Recital to Remember

Geoffrey Morgan is a professional recitalist with a challenging repertoire and a playing technique at the very top end of the concert standard. He has always been in the forefront of the recital circuit, with superb artistry, consummate musicianship and the ability to delight audiences with pieces of great variety. Mr Morgan avoids the prosaic style of the cathedral loft; his playing has élan, true panache and real musicianship.

It was no surprise to find on 20th May 2006 that his choice of programme at Farnham United Reformed Church was ideal to celebrate the restoration of the 1906 Henry Jones organ by James Richardson-Jones. Mr Richardson-Jones trained with N. P. Mander Ltd and has already proved his excellent skills in a number of important historic restorations.

In this celebration of the organ's refurbishment and centenary, Mr Morgan gave us a glorious concert ideally suited to demonstrate the considerable tonal variety of the instrument, but also to show that early Edwardian organs can be a suitable vehicle for major recitals.

The programme opened with a movement from Handel's 'Cuckoo and the Nightingale' Organ Concerto in which the player did not hesitate to use the flute stops to illustrate the birds - but always most musically. Clear, crisp phrasing, with a skilful use of the Swell pedal, gave the necessary triple dynamic levels in representing this attractive music on two manuals and pedals. It was an impeccable performance, lively and most musical.

Frank Bridge's Adagio in E reveals its riches rarely, for the notes hide the strength of construction and unusual form. Here the interpreter's problems were increased by the absence of modern controls - no solid-state mechanism and array of pistons to help the crescendo and decrescendo that is so much part of the music. The tension and climax were achieved through phrasing and extremely subtle hand registration - consummate musicianship of the highest order avoided the meanderings that characterise most readings of this fine piece.

Bach's ever-popular Toccata & Fugue in D minor received a rombustuous performance with the fugue at a cracking pace and rather more manual changes than is usual in these days of needlessly ascetic interpretations. As throughout this recital, the music prevailed over pseudo-historic preconceptions.

Alfred Hollins' Spring Song has, thankfully, never quite lost its popularity. Mr Morgan used the Swell Oboe stop in chorus, exhibiting the tonal palette in a most delightful way. Sadly, some recitalists neglect this well-wrought and pleasingly melodic music in favour of 'gritty' pieces that do nothing for the popularity of the organ as a vehicle of music.

Mozart's magnificent Fantasia K608, with its archaic gruppeti flourishes and Bach-like fugues makes far easier listening than would ever be thought from the title. Mr Morgan captured the flamboyance whilst conveying the gravitas of the flourishes and the intensity of the fugues. The delightful Andante and its three ingratiating variations showed the organ's tonal colours. The concluding double fugue spared neither player nor instrument. The two extremely awkward pedal passages were delivered without even a hint of their difficulty. It was all very exciting in this broad and expansive interpretation.

A pair of unusual pieces by Jongen heralded the finale - a Fantasia by Edwin Lemare, being arrangements from Bizet's Carmen welded into a delightful work in the style of an overture. The music translated well to the organ and was interpreted with verve, colour and true panache.

By way of encore we had Elgar's Salut d'amour in which the crescendi were achieved by addition of stops as well as subtle Swell pedal control. Masterly phrasing and slight rubato gave the music shape and style.

Farnham United Reformed Church is most fortunate to have its fine historic organ restored to impeccable condition by James Richardson-Jones, one of the up and coming organ builders of the younger generation. To hear this organ now, in pristine condition, put through its paces by one of our top recitalists was a great privilege. It was indeed an evening to remember.

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This page was updated on 3 May 2006